EXCLUSIVE: The finances for Studio 8, the film and television production company founded by Jeff Robinov and heavily supported by Shanghai-based conglomerate Fosun International, will not be affected by the sudden disappearance of company founder Guo Guangchang. Sources with knowledge of the financial deals said that the money already had been transferred to cover Studio 8’s expenses on upcoming production,s which include some biggies — Thrilla in Manila with director Ang Lee, who also helmed Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk for Studio 8; a remake of the horror classic Nosferatu; and Albert Hughes’ Ice Age survival tale The Solutrean.
Trading on Fosun shares was halted Thursday following reports in China that Guo suddenly became unreachable. He is a soft-spoken, polite man and a savvy businessman who is the 17th richest person in China with an estimated net worth of $5.6 billion. It’s known that Fosun executives (sans Guo) were in Los Angeles last week for a presentation of Studio 8’s production slate.
Studio 8 and Fosun’s plans are for two movies the first year, four in the second and six in each of the next three, with budgets ranging from $45 million to $100 million-plus. As part of that deal, Fosun said it would aid in expanding relationships within the local Chinese film industry. Sony’s part of the Studio 8 deal is to distribute up to six commercial features worldwide, excluding China. The studio also took an investment stake in Studio 8, which also has ventured out to TV and digital content for multiplatform release.
Rumors are swirling in China that Guo might have been arrested, but that could not be confirmed by anyone at Fosun. He was linked earlier this year to the head of a state-owned corporation who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for corruption, and the courts in China openly accused Fosun of reaping the benefits from that corruption. However, Fosun — which has been in business for 20 years in the Middle Kingdom — has vigorously denied those allegations.
At a September 2014 news conference on the Sony lot that gave journalists an opportunity to meet Guo, the exec said he and Robinov hit it off right away. “We fell in love at first sight, and we discussed things for two hours,” Guo said. “We met three months ago, and I figured out that all the movies he made were my favorite movies.” When asked what his favorite movie was, he joked, “Inception, though it was really hard to understand.”